Monday, July 18, 2011

Great Expectations by Charles Dickens - A "For the Classics" Guest Post

Ahh...friends...I'm so excited to present this lovely guest post by Mira.  She read Great Expectations and liked it enough to want to do a For the Classics guest post...and I'm so excited!!  Charles Dickens is one of my favorite classics writers...indeed, one of my favorite all time.  So enjoy this lovely post and sign up if you'd like to participate! :D  And please, follow this girl's beautiful reviews on Goodreads and look at her beautiful pictures on Picasa!! :D


Key facts

Reviewer- Mira
Book reviewed- Great Expectations
Author- Charles Dickens
Book’s genres- Bildungsroman, social criticism
Rating ***** (A-must-read!!)
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Hello classics lovers! My name is Mira, and I’m from Jerusalem-Palestine. To tell you a bit about me, I’m a passionate reader, always looking for something new, I, too, enjoy writing and believe words to be the most perfect communication means, and the most powerful among all weapons. Away from books, art occupies a huge part of my time and interests, as I draw, paint, and do different types of crafts. And above all I have a great love for cameras, and enjoy photography as a refreshing hobby! From my perspective life is an experience full of new faces, places and lessons, and the only thing that would make it into a most beautiful, useful one is to hold tight to your own beliefs and, in their company, try new things, and seek new moments. 

It’s really wonderful how internet connects people from different parts of the world and hopefully erases those stereotypes they might have in mind, and replace them with the correct founded facts. We may differ in our ideas, beliefs, cultural backgrounds, but after all we share humanity and an eternal love for life.

Charles Dickens

Charles John Huffam Dickens (7 February 1812 – 9 June 1870) was the most popular English novelist of the Victorian era, and he remains popular, responsible for some of English literature's most iconic characters. 

Many of his novels, with their recurrent concern for social reform, first appeared in magazines in serialised form, a popular format at the time. Unlike other authors who completed entire novels before serialisation, Dickens often created the episodes as they were being serialised. The practice lent his stories a particular rhythm, punctuated by cliffhangers to keep the public looking forward to the next installment. The continuing popularity of his novels and short stories is such that they have never gone out of print. 

His work has been praised for its realism, mastery of prose, comic genius and unique personalities by writers such as George Gissing, Leo Tolstoy, and G. K. Chesterton; though others, such as Henry James and Virginia Woolf, criticised it for sentimentality and implausibility.


In most of my readings, it’s generally the end of the book which makes the greatest impression on me and frames my complete opinion of it. Great Expectations proved itself to be an exception. Reading this wonderful novel seemed more like an infinite journey through which one meets hope besides disappointment, love united with hatred, and above all an endeavour to find one’s self and road to the ever-dreamt-of future. It’s the beautiful language of Dickens, the powerful emotions he pours into the heart of this eventful novel, and the sarcasm he presents many of the characters and their attitudes with, which makes Great Expectations a novel I love for its very essence. 

It is hard not to describe this novel as rich. It sets an example of a well-written, profound, full of satire book by a far-sighted novelist. And it feels almost impossible not to notice every progress or drawback connected with the protagonist’s character. You can feel the regret when he feels it, laugh at his simple thoughts, and sympathize with his faults and the reproaches he has to bear. I enjoyed the characters Dickens filled the pages with, as I went on reading. I found that some of these were called implausible by critics and somehow that was how they appeared to me at some points, but as I kept on exploring, this implausibility was the very thing that nourished my anxiety to go on, know more, and understand what is hidden behind each of these characters. It feels awkward to actually write about Great Expectations, as you cannot be that comprehensive to do every word, theme, and motif justice, but one tries, and in my case will keep trying till he could touch the heart of Great Expectations. 


As it is considered a bildungsroman, a novel which charts the progress of its protagonist from childhood, it follows the details of Pip’s life, an orphan country boy raised up by his reproachful sister and her good-hearted husband Joe. All through the way Pip encounters many trying circumstances which leave plain effects on his future character. The story starts with Pip visiting his parents’ tombstones at the marshes where he meets an escaped convict. As the convict orders him to bring him some food, Pip fearfully obeys, till the convict is finally captured with another man in Pip’s presence. The convict protects Pip by saying that he stole the food. 

Pip later begins to make continuous visits to an old wealthy lady called Miss Havisham in order to “play” as he’s asked to. He gets struck at the strange place she lives in, where all the clocks have stopped at a particular hour, and her wearing a wedding dress in a deserted room with everything telling of a once-prepared-for wedding. He later knows that long ago she was jilted at the altar and since then never changed anything around the house. At Miss Havisham’s he meets Estella, a beautiful but proud young lady who treats him coldly, and despite that Pip starts falling for her. He later stops his visits to start an apprenticeship with Joe, but is surprised later when a mysterious benefactor bestows a fortune upon him and provides for his going to London to become a gentleman. Pip says goodbye to his family and friends including Biddy, a faithful friend of his, and leaves to London. 

In London he first meets Mr. Jaggers, a lawyer who is considered Pip’s guardian, and then meets Herbert, his roommate and Miss Havisham’s cousin’s son who soon becomes Pip’s best friend. There, he expresses disdain for his former friends and loved ones, especially Joe, but he continues to pine after Estella. He also starts to spend way too much money, so his debts just keep piling up. Occasionally, he takes a break from his London life and goes back home to visit Miss Havisham. Pip also returns home to attend his sister’s funeral. Meanwhile Estella comes to London after some educational tours, and is more beautiful and sought by men than ever. She surprises everyone by marrying a man, one considered to be Pip’s enemy, which leaves him heartbroken. 

Things get worse for Pip as he is visited by the convict! He discovers that this convict, called Abel Magwitch, is the founder of his fortune, as he has dedicated his life to make Pip into a gentleman, motivated by gratitude to Pip’s kindness in the past towards him. Pip no longer is comfortable with the idea of his fortune, and is anxious to get Magwitch out of England. With Herbert’s help he forms a plan, which proves unsuccessful as they are seen by Magwitch’s enemy and coincidentally, Miss Havisham’s ex-lover. Consequently, Magwitch is arrested. Pip eventually finds out that Magwitch is Estella’s father, he tells him so, and that he’s in love with her. 

Pip gets really sick, and Joe comes to the rescue. For a while, it’s like old times when Pip and Joe would hang out. As soon as Pip recovers, however, Joe leaves him in the middle of the night, having paid off all of Pip’s debts. 

A few days later, Pip returns home, intending to ask for Joe’s forgiveness and to propose marriage to Biddy. Upon arriving home, however, he finds that Joe and Biddy have just married. He begs for their forgiveness at having neglected them for long, and then he moves to Cairo, where he works with Herbert for eleven years. He returns home after all these years to visit his old friends and pay them back and he finds them as well as ever with their son Pip who is called after him. 

As we come to the ending of the novel, we meet with two different ones, the original and the revised. When I reached this stage of the novel I was surprised by my own indifference to the way Dickens chose to end this journey. I was taken by, by all the complications, the laughs, the heart squeezes I felt reading Great Expectations that I knew I would love it no matter how it ends. In the original ending Pip meets Estella on the streets and is informed that her abusive husband has died and that she has remarried. Estella proves to have changed from the proud unfeeling girl she once was into a more understanding forgiving young woman, which is the only consolation to Pip who could not have her after all. . The novel ends with Pip saying he could see that "suffering had been stronger than Miss Havisham's teaching and had given her a heart to understand what my heart used to be." 

In the revised one, the more cheerful ending, they meet at Miss Havisham’s house or what is left of it. Pip feels that he has reached the final stage of his expectations as he is after all reunited with the woman he loves as he says “I saw no shadow of another parting from her”. 

Favorite Quotations 

"Heaven knows we need never be ashamed of our tears, for they are rain upon the blinding dust of earth, overlying our hard hearts.” 

"Pause you who read this, and think for a moment of the long chain of iron or gold, of thorns or flowers, that would never have bound you, but for the formation of the first link on one memorable day." 

I actually PAUSED at these two paragraphs. In these two Dickens mentions feelings one hardly thinks of : the value of one’s tears, and the value of events whether pleasant or unpleasant which by accumulation form this golden chain of one’s life. Though taken from different parts of the books I can feel the integration between the two, as they both take an inner glance into the soul and heart of your very life and ask you to stop, ponder, and value every moment, every laugh and every tear. 

A few words more.. 

It’s a long summary I know, but I could not resist the desire of mentioning those little details which, while reading, seemed just to make my day! This kind of novels simply deserves to be listed among the finest works of English Literature. In other words I LOVED it! It is different from many books I read, perhaps unique is a more fitting word. Therefore, I would ,proudly, do Mr. Dickens the honor and recommend it to my reading-fellows and anyone who enjoys spending his time in company with a good classic! :)


Thank you so so so much Mira for joining us today and posting such a lovely review! :D

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  1. Great review...I recently read this with my book club and was the only one who enjoyed it:) I think people are too used to a more modern (fast) pace in novels!

  2. This is amazing!! Better than what I had in mind :D Thank you very much Sierra for posting and for your beautiful words above!!
    I'm really happy to see it published here, you're doing such a great job at the blog!! Wish you all the best at your work, and waiting for more lovely posts to come! Again, thanks my friend!
    Melissa, thanks as well :)